Room Service: The Oberoi, Dubai
'Boutique' hotel with sky-high city views
While waiting to go through passport control at Dubai airport, a sign informed me that as little as 20 years ago there was only one skyscraper amid the desert here. Since then this arid, inhospitable landscape has grown into a major business hub and has created a luxurious service industry to cater for the wealth it attracts. Once through customs, I was greeted by a man in full morning suit who directed me to a BMW waiting to transfer me to The Oberoi. As I availed myself of Wi-Fi and bottled water, there was barely time to relax before we had pulled up to the entrance of Dubai's latest luxury address.
As is common in Dubai, the high-rise hotel is accompanied by a twin building, a business centre that houses offices, meeting rooms and shops. Both structures rise out of an oasis of lush green before curving out towards the top, creating an impressive landmark. With 252 rooms, The Oberoi is – by Dubai standards – a "boutique" hotel. It is the latest offering from the chain founded in India 80 years ago and as such influences from the subcontinent abound, from lithographs of historic places to original works of art by Mrinmoy Barua. In the split-level lobby, high ceilings, leather seating areas and a huge crystal chandelier convey a modern aesthetic.
The ground floor also accommodates three restaurants, offering Indian, Asian and Western cuisine. The hotel only opened six months prior to my stay, which perhaps accounted for the quiet dining rooms in the evenings – a shame, as the food was exceptional, including a Chinese-style chicken and sweetcorn soup at Umai. Up on the 27th floor, a rooftop bar, Iris, is the place to go for cocktails with a view of the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world.
A well-equipped spa offers traditional Asian massages including Balinese, Thai and Ayurvedic rituals. Outside, an infinity pool is framed by loungers, to which an attendant will bring a wooden tray bearing bottled water and sun lotion. Service throughout the hotel is attentive, almost to a fault. More peculiar, though, was the experience of reclining on a lounger as cranes and machinery toiled away on the construction of a neighbouring skyscraper – the transformation of this city continues apace.
Approximately 20km from Dubai airport, the hotel is in the emerging Business Bay district of downtown Dubai at the end of the extended Dubai Creek.
A stroll to check out the surroundings is not really on the cards, unless mid-construction skyscrapers and office buildings are your area of interest. However, the Dubai Mall (thedubai mall.com) is a very short taxi ride (8AED/£1.50) away, and is notable for its evening dancing fountain show as well as premium brands, restaurants and an in-mall aquarium.
A 20-minute taxi ride will take you to the oldest building in Dubai, now the Dubai Museum; while a short water taxi trip across the creek will deliver you to the Gold Souk, where you will find well-priced jewellery, dried fruits, nuts and spices and the usual tourist trinkets. Haggling is standard practice and the price of gold by weight is set daily helping to clarify what is, or isn't, a good deal.
The upmarket residential area of Jumeirah Beach is about 15 minutes' drive away. Local tour operator Desert Adventures (desertadventures.com) can organise activities. See definitely dubai.com for more information.
All rooms are flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows – my entry-level deluxe room overlooked the pool and was appointed with sleek, modern furniture. The neutral colour scheme was brought to life by colourful Mrinmoy Barua artwork. The bed was large, comfortable and dressed with crisp, white Indian cotton.
The spacious, white Botticino marble bathroom had a dual sink, large free-standing bath and a walk-in shower and toiletries by Italian designer label Etro and any essential you could think of was also provided.
Occupants of all rooms have access to a butler – from mine I would order the next morning's in-room breakfast and feel guilty that I had nothing else for him to do. After all, everything had already been thought of.
The Oberoi Dubai
The Oberoi Centre, Business Bay (Burj Area), Dubai, United Arab Emirates (00 971 4444 1444; oberoihotels.com)
Doubles start at AED3,480 (£578), room only.
The writer was a guest of Virgin Atlantic (0844 2092 770; virginatlantic.com), which flies daily from Heathrow to Dubai and offers return economy fares from £419 per person.
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